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WC Rodeo Athletes staying Busy during the Break

The college rodeo season may be on a winter break, but that doesn’t mean participants aren’t staying busy.

Like so many others, members of the Weatherford College rodeo team are busy competing and honing their skills – and picking up some awards – during this time before college competition resumes Feb. 11 in San Antonio with the College Rodeo Showdown followed by the Odessa College Rodeo Feb. 22-24.

At the midpoint of the season, both the Weatherford College men and women are third in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Southwest Region. They are hoping to send a complete men’s team and women’s team to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, in June.

Also, Lane Cooper is tied for third nationally among team roping headers and Kirby Blankenship is tied for third in team roping heelers.

They each lead the Southwest Region, two of 11 top-10 spots held by Weatherford College competitors at the midpoint.

The top two teams and top three individuals in each event advance to the CNFR.

In the meantime, though, team members are staying busy, something coach Johnny Emmons likes to see.

“If you’re not working hard, I guarantee you someone else is,” Emmons said. “Plus, I think staying active helps avoid injuries and keeps them ready for when the rodeo season cracks back up.

“It is important to stay busy to keep that edge. It is hard this time of year, since there are not as many events to go to, but before you know it, the rodeo season will be back in full action in February. But on the other hand, it is a good time of year for their horses to rest and freshen up.”

Among the highlights from the break, Emmons said, Cooper Hatley had a very successful U.S. Team Roping Finals in Oklahoma. He is also competing in Las Vegas at the World Series Team Roping Finals.

Leighton Berry won the United Pro Rodeo Association Finals and year-end championship in bareback riding.

There is, however, a fine line between competing and staying healthy.

“I think it’s just a matter of staying in shape,” Emmons said. “A lot of our guys and girls go to the gym regularly and still compete on a weekly basis.

“You can’t really rodeo and be competitive by worrying about injury. You just have to keep going. I think by staying fairly active, most avoid injury.”

Emmons does recommend some down time for competitors and their animals.

“This time of year is a good time to heal, horses freshen up and so forth,” he said. “When I was competing professionally, I would take a couple weeks off during the mid to end of December. A little rest is not going to hurt anyone.”

If participants are going to be active, Emmons does recommend competition over practice.

“Practice is always good, but nothing can replace competition as far as staying sharp and keeping that edge,” he said.

There are no requirements to compete during the break, Emmons said. In fact, not all team members do.

“You have the really competitive students who are aspiring to turn pro soon after college. They stay very active and compete multiple times a month,” he said. “We have some who are truly here for school and compete on the side. Maybe they do not feel they will turn pro, and are working towards a career path. Rodeo is just an avenue that may have got them into college and/or is paying for their education.”

As for the second half of the season, Emmons is as excited as he’s ever been for it to get started as WC is seeking to have competitors in the CNFR for a 14th straight year.

“I am pleased with the overall effort our team gave this fall,” Emmons said. “It is hard to have good teams on both sides (men and women). If you look at the regional standings, only TSU (Tarleton State University) and WC have both teams ranked in the top five, so that is something I am proud of.”

by Rick Mauch